Global Schools Student Summit of 5 Navan Schools

Education, Meath, Navan


Speech by Minister of State Damian English TD

Attending the closing the Global Schools Student Summit of 5 Navan Schools

Ardboyne Hotel, Navan

Tuesday Oct 25th 2016 – Closing session @ 3.30 – 4 PM


  • Thank you all very much for giving me the honour of addressing you at the close of your very busy day.
  • It is absolutely wonderful to see our schools, teachers and students being so proactive on the vital issues of development and sustainability, and to see how you have all come together here for Navan’s inaugural ‘Global Goals Student Summit’.
  • I want to thank the organisers at Beaufort College, Principal Angela Crowcock and particularly Jenny D’Arcy, Noreen Carolan and students, for the invitation to help close your quite unique conference. Naturally, I thank the organisers, teachers and students of the other schools here with every bit as much sincerity.
  • Beaufort College already does great work in its Green Schools programme and in a range of human rights and other areas. Noreen, I know, has coordinated the Development Education and Multicultural Programme at the school over the past few years.
  • The four other schools represented here have similar pedigrees in this field, and it makes me very proud, as a Meath man, to share even part of the day with you. I can see more than a few faces here that I already recognise.
  • I must acknowledge the practical grant aid that you have received for today’s forum, from WorldWise Global Schools. This organisation is among the leaders in making sure that we all engage with the UN Strategic Development Goals and other requirements. The aim is, essentially, to make the World a much better place than it is by 2030.
  • By that date, most of you young people here will already be in positions of greater influence in society and in your careers. I sincerely hope that today’s summit will help start some of you, at least, on a pathway in development education.
  • I began by referring to Meath, which may not surprise many here. I did so because it is important to remember that development education and sustainability are issues which, in many ways, must begin at home. If we cannot have our own houses in order, it is arrogant of us to expect that others will do so.
  • We face significant challenges in development, even in lovely Meath. We have, for centuries, been ‘Meath of the Pastures’, home to Brú na Bóinne. We are now a focal point of what is called the ‘Ancient East’ as well.
  • Yet, as we seek to preserve and promote these aspects of our heritage, we also have to grapple with the fact that County Meath is part of an ever-expanding belt of urbanisation around our capital city.
  • We face the advance of motorways and infrastructure, as well as needing to build up our housing stock with a deal of urgency – an issue which I am grappling with in my current position. Thus, even at local level, we can see that development education is all about getting the balance right.
  • When the National Strategy for Education for Sustainable Development was formulated in 2014, under the last government, it was inspired by the overall national strategy, ‘Our Sustainable Future’.
  • I held a portfolio at the Department of Education and Skills when these strategies were developed and from the outset, we were determined that a number of key principles would form the basis of ESD in Irish schools.
  • These included the need to be locally relevant while also linking the local to the national and international; emphasise social justice and equity; and focus on values and promote active democratic citizenship and inclusion as a means of empowering the individual and the community.
  • Your work today has embraced all of those principles, and more beside.


  • We cannot reasonably expect countries and peoples who are far worse off than the Irish are, to just accept international laws and decisions which, in the short term, may be very difficult for them to accept.
  • This is why it can take so long for agreements to be reached by all nations, like the one in Rwanda recently which will see a major restriction on the use of CFC gasses, so damaging to the environment.
  • Of course, many countries are still slow to deal with the challenges of CFC and other forms of pollution because, quite simply, they have few other options and may have suffered from decades or centuries of underdevelopment or misrule.
  • It is essential that the wealthier countries, and I include Ireland in that, lead the way and show how it can be done. The biggest polluters, and ironically the biggest threats to development education, come from some of the most developed countries.
  • It takes a long time for things to improve in terms of global development, no matter how much the United Nations, European Union, UNESCO and others try.
  • Today, in Paris, a major UNESCO conference on the Sustainable Development Goals will conclude, for example. Even before that, we know that progress will be slow and painstaking and that even an end-date of 2030 may come too soon for the realization of some of the key goals.
  • This is quite frightening really. The United Nations, Council of Europe and many other influential bodies have identified major challenges facing many parts of the world, including gender inequality, poverty, racial discrimination, intolerance and injustice – and yet there seems to be no solution to many of them in sight.
  • This is where schools like your own come in, in a really meaningful way. It is for you, the inheritors of the Earth, its next generation of leaders, to seize the challenges and opportunities now presented to you, and make sure our world ‘develops’ rather than regresses.
  • It was, I believe, a statement from World Wise Global Schools which summed this up in another way last year: ‘Development Education is education for transformation and positive change.’
  • This is a tall order. If history teaches us anything, it is that we continue to make the same mistakes of previous generations, by and large. Only now the stakes are higher than ever. There are increasing global populations, widening gaps between rich and poor, more and more horrific methods of killing people in the name of some cause or other.
  • The battle for human rights, tolerance, inclusivity and a better world is being won, but only slowly and we need the help of all of you, as active participatory citizens.
  • We had a very stark reminder in recent weeks of the fragility of human existence in many areas of the developing world, with the frightful destruction and loss of life caused by the hurricane in Haiti. While the loss of life in a nearby developed country to the very same storm, was counted in single figures, the losses in Haiti were in their thousands and continue to rise, today.
  • If you peel back the layers, you will see that poverty, climate change, poor housing quality and lack of proper development are all aspects of this terrible disaster. We tend to call these events ‘natural’ disasters, but the solution, or at least the means of easing much of the suffering caused by them, is very much in ‘human’ hands.
  • In terms of Irish education, the recent introduction of a new Leaving Certificate subject, Politics and Society, is a very encouraging step in the right direction for us. I know my colleagues in the Department of Education and Skills were delighted at the interest shown by schools last year, when invited to apply for the subject.
  • Eventually, forty-one post-primary schools began teaching the new subject in September this year, and it will undoubtedly help to supply the country with more workers in the field of development education in due course. It will be available to all schools from 2018.
  • There are lots of other efforts going on at departmental and systemic level to promote development education. The revisions to Civic, Social and Political Education, the introduction of Digital Media Literacy, and the placing of human rights at the core of school, national and international viewpoints in Ireland.
  • You are the next generation of development education pioneers. As such, you are following in the footsteps of many giants, and Irish giants at that.
  • It is wonderful that you have had support and encouragement today, in addition to World Wise Global Schools, from representatives from many local and national bodies, including Irish aid workers whose organisations are among the foremost in the world when it comes to promoting and supporting development education.
  • Before I close, I must tell you that I was asked by Jenny to mention to you how you can go about lobbying and pressurising for greater action in this area.
  • The influence of the organisations represented here today, and others, has spread far beyond the bounds of Ireland, let alone Meath. If I were to give you one recommendation today on how best to have an influence on development education, I would tell you to join one of these organisations and become an active worker for change.
  • May I close by simply thanking you all again for the honour and privilege you have afforded me today. It has been lovely to be with you, and to share some thoughts on this absolutely vital conference theme with you.
  • There is an old saying: ‘Mol an Óige agus tiocfaidh siad’ – ‘Praise the Youth and they will advance’. I think you have all come forward today in a really important way already, and I can assure you that any praise I am able to give you is very, very well deserved.
  • Thank you.


Speech at Retrofit Insulation Masterclass in Athboy

Action Plan for Housing, Apprenticeships, Athboy, Housing and Urban Renewal, Jobs, Meath, Rebuilding Ireland


Opening address by Mr. Damien English, T.D.

Minister of State at the Department of the Housing, Planning, Community and Local Government at the Retrofit Insulation Masterclass

on Tuesday, 25 October 2016 at 09:30 a.m. at

Ecological Building Systems, Athboy, County Meath.

unnamed unnamed-1 unnamed-2


• Ladies and Gentlemen, I am delighted to be here this morning in this
state of the art knowledge centre to address the Retrofit Insulation
Masterclass. I understand the absolute importance of such training
events not just from the perspective of my current role as Minister for Housing and Urban
Renewal but also from the perspective of my previous role as Minister
for Skills, Research and Innovation at the Department of Education.

• At the outset I would like to thank MacCann & Byrne and Ecological
Building Systems for giving me the opportunity to be here with you
today. Recent changes to the Building Control Regulations have put a
strong emphasis on improving the competence and quality of the
construction industry. That is why I fully support today’s event and
other training events such as the Qualibuildconference which I have
also spoken at.

Rebuilding Ireland / Social Housing Retrofitting

• The Government and I have made it our number one priority to resolve
the housing and homelessness crisis and under “Rebuilding Ireland” we
have set out a broadly based and comprehensive set of actions to do
just that.

• A core objective of “Rebuilding Ireland” is delivering quality and
energy efficient housing in a way that meets current needs while
supporting sustainable communities and maximising the contribution of
the built environment to addressing climate change.

• Furthermore under the Social Housing Investment Programme my
Department is providing, via local authorities, funding of up to
€15,000 euro per dwelling for necessary works such as attic and wall
insulation, the replacement of windows and external doors and the
fitting of energy-efficient condensing boilers.

Building Control Framework & Construction Industry Register Ireland

• As you are all aware, we are in the middle of a severe housing
shortage and the delivery of quality housing in a short timeframe and
at an affordable price is critical to meeting the demand for
residential accommodation that has built up in our major urban areas
as the recovery in our economy is sustained and continues to grow.

• To ensure the delivery of quality homes a trained and skilled
workforce is required that can deliver dwellings built to high quality
standards, at scale and in a consistent and repeatable manner at a
reasonable cost.

• The Building Control (Amendment) Regulations 2014 (or S.I. No. 9 of
2014 as they are known) require greater accountability in relation to
compliance with Building Regulations in the form of statutory
certification of design and construction by registered construction
professionals and builders, lodgement of compliance documentation,
mandatory inspections during construction and validation and
registration of certificates.

• In tandem with the commencement of S.I. No. 9 of 2014, the
Construction Industry Federation established Construction Industry
Register Ireland (or CIRI) as a voluntary register of builders,
contractors and specialist trade persons.

• To date over 800 Building and contracting entities are currently
included on the voluntary CIRI register and my Department will shortly
bring a Memorandum to Government for approval to begin drafting a Bill
to place the CIRI register on a statutory footing.

Climate Change & S.R. 54

• The latest Central Statistics Office (CSO) report on building energy
ratings has advised that “57% of dwellings built since 2010 are “A”
rated.” This is a significant improvement in terms of new dwellings.

• However retrofitting of existing dwellings can make a significant
contribution to meeting climate change targets as 25% of all energy
use occurs in dwellings.

• My Department worked closely with the Department of Communications,
Climate Action and Environment, the Sustainable Energy Authority of
Ireland and the National Standards Authority of Ireland to produce
Standard Recommendation 54 – S.R. 54 – Code of Practice for the Energy
Efficient Retrofit of Dwellings.

• This provides technical guidance on the energy efficient retrofit of
dwellings based on the most recent standards and technical guidance.

• While there are many challenges currently facing the housing sector,
the Government remains fully committed to its climate change and
energy efficiency targets and retrofitting is an important element of
achieving them.

• The delivery of construction skills training programmes such as this
in the area of retrofitting is an important contributor to achieving
our climate change targets and delivering quality housing.

EPBD/NZEB & Major Renovations

• The European Energy Performance of Buildings Directive requires that
all new buildings will be Nearly Zero Energy Buildings by the end of
December 2020 and that new buildings owned and occupied by public
authorities will be nearly zero energy after the end of December 2018.

• The Directive defines a Nearly Zero Energy Building or NZEB as a
building that has a very high energy performance where the nearly zero
or very low amount of energy required should be covered to a very
significant extent by energy from renewable sources including energy
from renewable sources produced on-site or nearby.

• However what is of particular interest from a retrofitting
perspective is that the Directive will also apply to major renovations
where more than 25% of the surface area of the building envelope
undergoes renovation.


• While there are many challenges facing the housing sector, overall
the economy continues to improve and a robust Building Control
Framework is in place to ensure quality and competence in
construction. This new framework has created an increased demand for
training and it is heartening to see how enthusiastic many of you here
today are about improving standards.

• As William Butler Yeats once said “Education is not the filling of a
pail, but the lighting of a fire” and that is why it is important that
training events such as this are organised as they provide an
opportunity for an exchange of views to take place, increase
innovation and highlight best practice in the industry.

• Thank you.

Just over €31m paid to Meath farmers under 2016 Basic Payment Scheme – English

Farming, Food, Funding, Meath, Trim, Wesmeath

Monday, 24th October 2016

Fine Gael T.D. for Meath West and local Minister Damien English T.D.
has confirmed that just over €31 million has been paid out to farmers
in Co. Meath under the 2016 Basic Payment Scheme.

“The Minister for Agriculture, Michael Creed, has confirmed to me
that €31,098,025 has been paid out to farmers in Meath under the 2016
Basic Payment Scheme. Nationally, payments worth over €714 million
began issuing to in excess of 109,000 farmers last week.

“The Department has received 3,959 applications from Meath farmers
under the Basic Payment Scheme, with 3,354 paid out so far to the tune
of €31,098,025.

“In times of price volatility for farmers, it is crucial that these
payments are issued in the most efficient way possible to farmers here
in Meath who so depend on them. Minister Creed has prioritised the
delivery of these payments at the earliest possible date allowable
under EU legislation and it is good to note also that with the move to
full online application by 2018, the Department of Agriculture will be
able to introduce further efficiencies into the processing of
payments. This will make life a lot easier for farmers here in Meath.

“Minister Creed also confirmed that payments to farmers under the
Areas of Natural Constraints (ANC) Scheme also continue to issue as
cases are confirmed for payment. Under the ANC Scheme, €177 million
has now issued to some 82,000 farmers since payments commenced on 20th
September. The advance BPS payment and the ANC payments taken together
mean that over €890M has now issued to Irish farmers in the last
month. Payments under the Young Farmers Scheme and the coupled Protein
Aid will commence in December 2016.

“Advance payments will continue issuing regularly until late November,
with balancing payments to issue from the 1st of December.  Any farmer
with a question in relation to their BPS or ANC payments, can contact
the Department at 076 106 4420. This helpline is running extended
hours- from 17th October to 29th October, farmers can ring the
Department between 9am and 8.30pm on weekdays and from 9am to 1pm on
Saturdays. I encourage any Meath farmer with a query about their
payment to contact this helpline, which is of great support to farm
families around the country.”


Speech to Strategy for the Rental Sector – Stakeholder Consultation Workshop

Action Plan for Housing, Budget 2017, Housing and Urban Renewal, Wesmeath

Strategy for the Rental Sector – Stakeholder Consultation Workshop

Welcome speech by Mr Damien English T.D.

Minister of State for Housing and Urban Renewal

20 October 2016. Morrison Hotel, Dublin 1


Good morning ladies and gentlemen, I would like to start by welcoming you and thanking you for joining Minister Coveney and myself this morning at this very important Stakeholder Consultation workshop on the development of a Strategy for the Rental Sector. 

Rebuilding Ireland and Rental Strategy

The Rebuilding Ireland: Action Plan for Housing and Homelessness was launched in July 2016. Its vision is that to the greatest extent possible, every household in Ireland can access secure, good quality and affordable housing suited to its needs and located within sustainable communities. This is a vision that I fully support. The residential rental sector has a vital role to play in achieving this vision.

The residential rental sector is an essential component of the housing sector, and its vital role needs to be recognised and planned for. It has gone through considerable change over the last ten to fifteen years, doubling in size and providing long-term homes for more people.

This is why Rebuilding Ireland also commits to developing a real and meaningful strategy for the rental sector. This strategy which will be published by the end of the year, will lay out measures to address immediate issues affecting the supply, cost and accessibility of rental accommodation. It will also include measures to support the development of a viable and sustainable rental sector that can provide choice, quality, value and security for households and secure, attractive investment opportunities for rental providers.

Todays’ Stakeholder Forum

The purpose of todays’ event is to allow each of you as key stakeholders in this area to be provided with an opportunity to feed into the strategy and talk through the wider issues affecting the rental sector.  For example some of these are:

  • The growing numbers of families entering homelessness, often from the private rented sector
  • Rents are back at boom time levels;
  • The number of homes available to buy and rent is well below demand;
  • We are building less than half the homes we need and have done so for a number of years;
  • We have thousands of vacant houses and significant numbers of undeveloped sites, and,
  • Thousands of families, owner occupiers and landlords, are in mortgage arrears.

Round Table Discussion

As you signed in today you would have each been given an assigned table number, each table will be facilitated in the discussion around a range of issues by a moderator and a note taker. Key themes and questions have been assigned to each table and an hour and a half will be given to the discussion after which each moderator will be given 5 minutes to report back with the views of each table.

Today is not a negotiation among or with the different stakeholders, it is an opportunity to express and exchange opinions and to build understanding of the different needs and points of view. So while we are not trying to reach agreed positions on all the issues being discussed today it would be hoped that each table’s response would reflect a number of points of agreement and the key issues of ongoing debate. We have also assigned note takes to each table who will record a fair and accurate summary of the groups’ discussion; these notes will be collected by Department officials at the end of the session and will also be considered by working group tasked with assisting in the preparation of the strategy.

Written Consultation Process

While work has started on the development of the Strategy, this needs to be informed by the views and suggestions of as a wide range of groups and individuals as possible. I would like to invite you all to help inform this process by making a written submission. Following today’s event we will launch an on-line consultation guideline: this will provide you with the opportunity to make the written submission. The purpose of today’s discussions is to help inform those submissions. The document will be available on my Departments’ website or in hard copy, and submissions can be returned to my department up to Monday, November 7th to feed into the drafting process.


Thank you all for attending today and I wish to acknowledge the valuable contribution many of you present here today and the organisations you represent have already made. I hope you all have an interesting and engaging morning.

I will now hand over to my colleague Minister Simon Coveney to set the scene for our discussions today.

Launch of ‘Being Age Friendly in the Public Realm’

Active Retirement, Health, Housing and Urban Renewal, Meath, Navan, Transport, Trim

Launch of ‘Being Age Friendly in the Public Realm’

Meath County Council Chambers, Navan, 18th October, 2016 

Minister Helen McEntee Speaking at Age Friendly Launch Group shot Age Friendly Launch

Cathaoirleach, Mayor, Minister McEntee, elected members, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen I am delighted to be here today. Thank you to Meath County Council and Age Friendly Ireland for the invitation.

Local government has a very clear purpose and a definite direction. The policy document ‘Putting People First’ drives that direction that we are all going in. It has prompted City and County Councils to identify the functions most relevant at local level and, in particular, the functions that Councilsmust take a strong lead on.

Empowering the citizen to participate in the development of their community, both rural and urban, is central to this new model of governance and service delivery.

I am very mindful that ageing is not solely a health issue – it requires awhole of Government response. The challenges and opportunities associated with an ageing population can be met and indeed exploited by planning now on a whole of Government basis. I am delighted therefore to be here today with my Ministerial colleague Helen McEntee.

The Age Friendly Programme approach represents a real exemplar of good integrated and devolved local government. The city and county wide consultation processes that are central to the Age Friendly Programme provide a key means for the voice of the older person to be heard and for this voice to influence and inform local decision making.

Government policy is to support older people to live with dignity and independence in their own homes and communities for as long as possible. In respect of my own Department I am very conscious that housing has a key role to play in supporting older people to age comfortably in the community they belong to.

I am also very aware of the important role of the public realm in supporting access and participation.

As people age they spend more time in and close to their own homes. This means that older people’s quality of life, and thus their health, can depend on how age aware or age attuned our public realm is.

The design and maintenance of a community’s built environment can make the difference between a healthy and active lifestyle, or one characterised by limited mobility and high levels of social isolation. The way an area looks and how safe it feels has a big impact on older people’s confidence and motivation.

‘Being Age Friendly in the Public Realm’ – this document being launched today – is a very practical resource. It brings together many of the key approaches introduced across recent years which have helped to make our outdoor spaces and public realm pleasant, clean, accessible and safe for older people, creating walkable communities and more age friendly spaces.

Very often simple things will improve everyone’s access and thus their confidence to stay engaged and to participate in the wider community. Practical changes to public seating, our parks and green areas can have an impact on older people’s motivation to stay active.

The introduction of tone zones has encouraged people of all ages to enjoy more connected lives. Age Friendly parking, pedestrian crossings and signage that is ‘age aware’ can support older people to feel safer when out and about, and so feel more confident to stay active and to participate in the wider community

I welcome these practical resource documents and the associated programme of training on ‘age friendly housing and the public realm’ developed by Age Friendly Ireland. I am particularly pleased to see this very local age friendly work being supported so actively by Meath County Council, the age Friendly Alliance and the Older People’s Council across towns such as Kells and Trim.

It is through this kind of leadership and innovation and resources such as this that we will be better supported to scale up these local, proven and very often practical models into the consistent application of age friendly initiatives across a wider geography – be that all the way across Meath or indeed all the way across Ireland.

The Age Friendly Towns programme, which has supported change at the level of the town, village and neighbourhood, has shown how very practical and low cost, and at times ‘no-cost’ interventions, can make a big difference to the lives of older people.

It is through this kind of practical planning that we will be better placed to meet the challenges that lie ahead for our older citizens. I am delighted therefore to be here today to support its launch.


Claire Byrne Radio Show 15th Oct. 2016

Action Plan for Housing, Budget 2017, Education, Meath, Rebuilding Ireland, Wesmeath

Last Saturday I represented the Government on the Claire Byrne Radio Show panel along with Peadar Toibin, Sinn Fein TD Meath West, Richard Boyd-Barrett, People Before Profit TD for Dun Laoghaire, Patricia King, ICTU General Secretary & Dan O’Brien Columnist with The Sunday Independent & The Irish Independent & Chief Economist at the IIEA.

Issues discussed included Budget 2017, public sector pay and the ASTI dispute.

You can listen back on the link below:

Minister English congratulates O’Growney N.S., Athboy on new extension

Athboy, Education, Meath, North Meath, School extension, Skills

Monday, 17th October 2016

Log on to my Facebook to see some pictures from the event:

“It was a pleasure as a local T.D. for Meath West, and as a recent
former Minister of State in the Department of Education with an
interest in this project, to attend at the blessing of the new
extension to O’Growney N.S. Athboy by the Most Rev. Bishop Michael Smith.
The staff team led by Principal John Brennan and Deputy Principal Mary
Kearney, the voluntary Board of Management, Parents’ Association and
their students are all to be complimented on seeing through a
fantastic project which will benefit and uplift the whole community of
Athboy” stated local Minister for Housing and Urban Renewal Damien
English T.D. after attending the blessing of the new O’Growney N.S.
Athboy extension last week.

The project at O’Growney National School consisted of the construction
of a new 16 classroom school and ancillary accommodation and
equipment/furnishings, part demolition of the existing school building
and retention of the protected part of the existing building. The
project commenced on site on 18th May 2015 and the school building was
handed over on 21st June 2016 with all external work completed by the
19th September 2016 for its official opening last week.


Opening Address to National Disability Annual Conference 2016 – Designing Smart Homes for our Future Communities.

Action Plan for Housing, Health, Housing and Urban Renewal, Rebuilding Ireland

Tuesday, 11 October 2016 at 10:10 a.m.

at the Croke Park Conference Centre, Hogan Mezzanine Suite, Jones Road, Dublin 3.

unnamed-1 unnamed-2



Ladies and Gentlemen, I am delighted to be here this morning to address the National Disability Authority’s Annual Conference 2016. At the outset, I would like to thank the National Disability Authority and for giving me the opportunity to be with you here today to highlight the important work being carried out by my Department, among the many others, to resolve the housing and homelessness crisis.

It is important to reiterate that homelessness and the acute shortage of homes available to those who need them is one of the greatest challenges facing this country today. It is having a profound effect on the daily lives of many individuals and families who feel they have been failed by the system and who urgently require homes.

The Government and I have made it our number one priority to resolve the housing and homelessness crisis and under “Rebuilding Ireland” we have set out a broadly based and comprehensive set of actions to do just that.

Housing in Ireland and Rebuilding Ireland as a solution to the challenges

As you may be aware “Rebuilding Ireland” sets out a practical and readily implementable set of actions that will increase housing supply to create a functioning and sustainable housing system that is capable of: –

Providing homes for families in emergency accommodation;

Tackling the underlying causes, addiction and otherwise, of people living on our streets;

Producing a minimum of 25,000 housing units nation-wide every year by 2020;

Responding post-2020 to meet future housing needs;

Delivering more social housing, much faster, and putting in place financially sustainable mechanisms to meet current and future requirements for social housing supports.

Key actions to accelerate Social Housing under Pillar 2

I would like to outline the range of initiatives being progressed under the Social Housing Pillar of Rebuilding Ireland, which are of particular interest to all of us here today.

Housing Adaptation Grants for Older People / People with a Disability (Private Houses)

It is incredibly important that we provide appropriate and suitable housing that meets the needs of all our citizens, including older people and people with a disability.

Funding for the Housing Adaptation Grants for Older People and People with a Disability was increased this year by 10%, to give overall funding of over €56 million. I am very aware of the social benefit these grants bring, by supporting the continued independent occupancy in their own homes by older people and people with a disability.

Something we have also worked on in recent times with this scheme is connecting the Councils and the hospitals, so that somebody scheduled for hospital discharge has their adaptation works prioritised by the Council.

The additional 2016 funding will see around 8,000 homes benefitting from the scheme by the end of this year, up from the 7,600 of last year.

For 2017, I am confident that we can secure funding in the budget for an even greater increase in the number of households to benefit. I hope to target adaptations and upgrades for up to 10,000 homes in 2017, in line with the Rebuilding Ireland commitment.

Increased overall funding for these Housing Adaptation Grants to private houses is an important benefit to people with a disability, given the support it provides of up to €30,000 to make a house more suitable in terms of accessibility; including works ranging from extensions to access ramps; stair-lifts; downstairs toilet facilities; etc.; all of which can really improve quality of life of the occupants.

Housing for People with Disabilities

More broadly, when it comes to the delivery of housing for people with disabilities through mainstream housing options, the Action Plan reinforces the centrality of the National Housing Strategy for People with a Disability 2011-2016.

This strategic housing policy for people with disabilities sets out the framework for the delivery of housing for people with disabilities through mainstream housing policy.

The Housing Agency is central to how we drive this agenda, working as it does with the HSE, local authorities, the Irish Council for Social Housing (ICSH) and disability representative organisations.

This cross-representative group, which includes representative organisations and the NDA, is an excellent example of the collaborative working arrangements that are needed to deliver good quality and accessible housing that meets the specific needs of an individual with a disability.

Furthermore, the partnership approach adopted under the Housing Disability Strategy recognises that the provision of suitable housing is only one element in supporting people with disabilities to live fully inclusive lives.

We’re working on the extension of the current Strategy beyond its original timeframe of 2016 and we envisage the development of local Strategic Plans to address the housing needs of people with a disability over the next 5 years.

Another important action for us here is in relation to the Government’s de-institutionalisation policy. We’ve provided ring-fenced funding of €10m in 2016 under the Capital Assistance Scheme specifically for accommodation for people with disabilities transitioning from congregated settings and we’ll continue to respond on this front in 2017 and 2018.

I am aware that the HSE has also allocated €20m this year to accommodate individuals transitioning from priority institutions identified by the HSE. It is important to say, however, that Capital Assistance Scheme funding will also be available to provide housing for people with disabilities in the community more generally that is not specifically targeted at deinstitutionalisation. My Department will continue to work with the Department of Health, the HSE, local authorities and the disability sector on all issues.

Older People

None of us are getting any younger! By 2045, it is projected that there will be double the number of 65-year-olds in this country, and we need to make sure that we plan for and cater for our ageing population.

Following a housing summit in late 2015, an inter-agency Housing Working Group led by Age Friendly Ireland set out to explore the options to better accommodate older people within their community rather than in residential care. Following research, workshops with older persons, and active collaboration between stakeholders including the Irish Council for Social Housing, the HSE, the Department of Health, Dublin City Council and my own Department, the Housing Working Group produced its report last month.

The report, titled “Housing with Supports”, was launched by my colleague Minister Coveney only last week.

Among the recommendations is the development of a pilot project of 50 to 60 dwellings suitable for the elderly. A steering committee has already been established to oversee progress and Dublin City Council has identified a potential site and an application for approval in principle for funding is currently being prepared. Minister Coveney and I are keen that this project advances as soon as possible. Age Friendly Ireland and Dublin City Council will seek to procure an approved housing body with suitable experience to deliver this project.

Homes for Smart Ageing – A universal design challenge

In addition to the actions aimed at the accelerated delivery of quality housing and a more responsive housing market, Pillar 2 of the Rebuilding Ireland Action Plan for Housing and Homelessness, contains specific commitments to meet the housing needs of the vulnerable, which includes our older people.

As with many of the themes within Rebuilding Ireland, addressing the needs of the elderly will require cross-Departmental and inter-agency co-operation and collaboration. In this regard, the commitments in the Action Plan are complementary to the objectives of the Programme for Actions for Smart Ageing published by the Department of the Taoiseach in April of this year.

As you know, Government policy is to support older people to live with dignity and independence in their own homes and communities for as long as possible. For many, living in adapted or specialist housing reduces reliance on health and social care services and can result in measurably improved health status and lower rates of hospital admissions, while also contributing to a greater sense of well-being.

“Smart ageing” iS a broad concept that has been defined as ‘using technology and innovation in both the public and private sectors to produce products, services, solutions, and systems to improve the quality of life of people aged 50 and over’. Adaptable and smart homes are the future with advantages from saving energy to creating homes suitable for a lifetime.

I had the pleasure of recently announcing, at the 85th National Ploughing Championships last month, that I was providing €100,000 in prize money to support a Smart Ageing design challenge to demonstrate innovation in the design and delivery of housing solutions for older people, focussing on three distinct areas:

smart technologies in housing for older people;

adapting existing houses to meet the needs of older people; and

life-time communities.

In this regard, the Homes for Smart Ageing: A Universal Design Challenge will be open to anyone with an idea which is feasible, cost effective and has potential for mainstreaming into the future. It is intended that the competition will be open to applicants early in the New Year.

My Department, has recently established a steering group comprising the Centre for Excellence in Universal Design, the Royal Institute of the Architects of Ireland and the Construction Industry Federation, Dublin City Council to oversee the development of the brief for the Homes for Smart Ageing: A Universal Design Challenge.

As part of the brief’s development, the steering group, which held its inaugural meeting, only last week, will consult with stakeholder groups and other interested parties.

The overarching objective of the design challenge will be to stimulate and encourage the design, construction and technology industries to be innovative in designing and delivering housing solutions for older people.

I wish everyone involved in its implementation and indeed those who take part in the challenge, every success.

I eagerly await seeing the innovation approaches that this will generate and I look forward to seeing the winning ideas and solutions utilised in the delivery of good quality housing to those who need it.

I take note of the workshops planned for the afternoon session of your conference which follow a similar theme to the Homes for Smart Ageing: A Universal Design Challenge and I am sure that innovative ideas will emerge from these collaborative sessions.


Returning to a normally functioning housing and construction sector is critically important in order to support economic growth, social progress and environmental sustainability.

While the Government is acting, the challenge does not stop there. It is vital that, as the 84 actions to facilitate house building are implemented, local authorities, approved housing bodies, voluntary bodies, builders and developers proactively respond to the housing supply challenge so that together we can deliver good quality housing to those who need it.

Budget 2017 will assist first time buyers to get on the property ladder & will increase housing supply

Action Plan for Housing, Budget 2017, Housing and Urban Renewal, Meath, Rebuilding Ireland, Wesmeath

Fine Gael Meath West TD, and Minister of State for Housing and Urban Renewal, Damien English, has said that Budget 2017 will assist first time buyers to get on the property ladder with a new measure designed to increase housing supply.

“Budget 2017 allocates significant funding of €1.2 billion for the Government’s housing action plan entitled, Rebuilding Ireland – an Action Plan for Housing and Homelessness’.

“An innovative measure in this plan, announced today as part of Budget 2017, is the help to buy scheme for first time buyers. This initiative is designed to help first time buyers get on the property ladder and to increase the supply of housing.

“The initiative will be available to first time buyers from 19th July 2016 to the end of 2019 and is designed to encourage the building of new houses in that time frame. It will involve a 5% tax rebate for first time buyers on new builds up to €400,000.  A maximum rebate of €20,000 will apply to properties from €400,000 to €600,000, and no rebate will be available for properties above €600,000.

“In order to ensure that this initiative increases supply without overheating the market, it must be limited to those buying newly built homes. In this way it will stimulate construction and increase supply, which should make housing more affordable for everyone. Fianna Fáil, in an effort to find something to criticise, assert that this initiative should not be restricted to new builds. It’s the same old Fianna Fáil with their reckless approach to housing and the economy. Extending such a tax relief to second hand housing, would only serve to push up prices, overheat the market and lead to another disastrous housing bubble.

“A number of other initiatives announced today will also help to increase housing supply. For example, the Living City Initiative will be expanded by removing the maximum floor area restriction and removing the requirement for properties to have been previously used as residential dwellings to avail of support. Qualification thresholds are also being changed to expand the initiative. The income ceiling on the Rent a Room scheme will increase, allowing home owners to rent out additional rooms while remaining within the scope of the scheme. It is thought this will help to increase the numbers of rooms available to third level students.

“The Repair and Leasing Initiative will allow local authorities to provide financial assistance to property owners to bring vacant properties up to standard which can then be leased for social housing.  Capital provision of €6 million in 2017 will deliver 150 units under this new initiative. The Buy and Renew initiative will support local authorities and approved housing bodies to purchase private housing units in need of remediation, renew them and make them available for social housing use.  An initial capital provision of €25 million will be available for this initiative in 2017. 800 vacant Local Authority units will also be brought back into use in 2017.

“According to Minister Coveney, the investment provided by the Exchequer and by local authorities will allow us to meet the housing needs of 21,050 families in 2017. In addition, local authorities will fund a range of housing services to the value of €92 million from surplus Local Property Tax receipts, bringing the total housing provision in 2017 to almost €1.3 billion.  We are also providing an increase of €28 million in funding for homeless services. This is an increase of 40% on last year, and includes the provision of emergency supports for rough sleepers and ending reliance on the use of hotels for homeless families by mid-2017.

“Budget 2017 is another stepping stone in Fine Gael’s plan to use a strong economy to help make people’s lives better.  Thanks to the careful economic management of recent years we now have the resources to target investments in key public services that will make a real difference to people’s lives. Meeting the housing needs of our people is a major part of this plan.”